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London sticks with parade marchers

The Clarkston High School Marching Band parades through London. Photo provided (click for larger version)
January 12, 2011 - Clarkston High School Marching Band members remain in a London state of mind, after their New Year's trip.

Senior Taylor Tomei glanced at the clock in the hallway behind the high school's performing arts center – five o'clock it read.

"It's 10 in London," she calculated as she drifted back to the beloved city in which she and her fellow band members spent six days. They returned Jan. 3 after performing in the 25th London New Year's Day Parade.

Junior Renee Morency found herself thinking about what they would have been doing – relaxing in the hotel before setting off on another adventure planned for the next day.

"My watch is still on London time," senior Molly Egan added, glancing down at her left wrist and admitting she has thought about changing it back. "I get sentimental."

Fifty-five band members left on Dec. 27, enough time to visit the sights before performing in the parade in London.

"It didn't register," explained Tomei about arriving in England. "It was definitely different."

The group took two separate flights. As the later flight was in the air, members on the early flight walked around, ate dinner and shopped.

"It was incredible," said Egan. "It was really busy."

"It was amazing," added Morency.

Before performing in the parade, they visited Canterbury, Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Abbey Road and saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

"The first day we visited Saint Paul's Cathedral where Charles and Diane got married," said Egan. "We were excited to visit where Prince William and Kate are getting married (in Westminster Abbey)."

"We visited Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes," Tomei added.

The band celebrated New Year's Eve with a party at their hotel on Oxford Street, including a DJ and balloons.

"I called my mom after midnight and said 'ha,ha I am the future,'" smiled Morency.

The next day they marched in the New Year's Day parade, a two mile stretch from Piccadilly to the Palace of Westminster beginning at noon despite the rain.

"There were tons of people in the street," Tomei said.

"I felt like we were celebrities," Egan added, explaining a woman walked up to the color guard and asked to have a photo taken with them.

"So many people would walk by, stop and take pictures of us," said Morency.

Tomei explained it was two hours before the group actually moved in the parade. Announcers would periodically come over the speakers informing who was coming, information about the group and when the parade was going to end.

Clarkston played the Battle Hymn of the Republic during the parade, watched by more than half a million people standing on the streets. They would loop the song when it was over.

"It was two miles but it felt like the longest two miles," said Morency. "We stopped right in front of Westminister Abbey. I saw Big Ben when we turned the corner and thought 'oh, my god, we are almost there.'"

They stopped and joined seven other bands for the grand finale. They performed "Patriotic Medley," "God Save the Queen" – Great Britain's national anthem – and a piece from Les Miserables.

"We had one rehearsal for the finale," said Egan. "I thought that was pretty cool to put it all together when we only practiced once with everyone."

"It was an experience," added Morency. "I was amazed how good everyone played after one rehearsal."

They were rewarded with cheers and applause from the audience.

"It is a pretty big deal," said Morency. "After you started marching you were tired. But we loved it."

"Our parents were really cheering," Egan smiled. "I loved it. We were really lucky to go. It was a trip of a lifetime."

Tomei, Morency and Egan all echoed how grateful they were for the invitation for the band to be part of the New Year's Day Parade.

"Not just going with friends but going with family, we are family," said Tomei.

"We thank everyone who helped and supported us, The Clarkston News," began Egan.

"All of our sponsors," continued Morency.

"Plus, our directors," added Tomei.

Watch CHS Marching Band in the parade -

If you don't want to watch all four hours - Clarkston plays at the 3 hour 24 minute mark in the parade. They play again at the end, beginning at 4:04.40.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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